Book Review: Dream Big

The Book-Dream Big by Cristiane Correa- is about the richest man in Brazil Jorge Paulo Lemann and his remarkable story of entrepreneurship.

Jorge Paulo Lemann started an investment bank called Banco Garantia.He ran it very successfully based on 3 principles-Learn from the best worldwide,meritocracy and incentives.

He harnessed the “super power of incentives” to create the biggest investment bank in Brazil and later sold it to Credit Suissee for $675 Million.

As an investment banker, he started taking over companies and formed a receipe for success which works something like this:

  • Buy a bloated company with a world famous brand
  • Get your own people in there-incentivise them heavily with v high bonuses/equity for meeting targets
  • Cut costs ruthlessly…get rid of 20-30% of the existing workforce
  • Laugh your way to the Bank

His 3G Capital used this approach to create the largest brewer in the world-InBrev.Some of his other famous acquisitions are Heinz, Burger King etc

The book is full of characters,anecdotes,events etc from the Brazilian business world which may sound arcane to us Indians.

But some of the lessons I learnt (or relearnt)in this book are :

  1. Networking counts. Jorge was an aggressive networker who used his education in Havard to build relationships. He would go out of his way to cultivate contacts. Sports- tennis/fishing etc – is a good way to network
  2. Look at the sector, not just the Company. I found it very amusing how Jorge decided to get into the brewery business: “I was looking at Latin America and who was the richest guy in Venezuela?A brewer (The Mendoza family who owns Polar).The richest guy in Colombia? A brewer (the Santo Domingo group,the owner of Bavaria). The richest in Argentina?A brewer (the Bembergs,owners of Quilmes). These guys can’t all be geniuses…it’s the business that must be good.”
  3. Look for companies that have frugality in-built in their DNA and focussed on business and market share…these companies are the ones who will decimate the competition
  4. Look at how the senior management is incentivised….that will tell you how they will behave
  5. Be non-flashy in your own personal behavior. Once Jorge was at a petrol pump when it got robbed.The robbers let Jorge go away, not knowing he’s Brazil’s richest man, as he was driving a 10 year old Passat !

Three examples from the Indian context came to my mind, while reading this book:

  • The owners of the Paint Companies in India are all Billionaires….maybe it has less to do with them and more to do with the business !
  • Laxmi Narayan Mittal used a similar approach to build his steel empire-used to takeover steel plants,fire the expensive expat managers there and get Indian technocrats from SAIL to run the show
  • R K Damani of DMart is using the 3G approach-run a lean frugal operation, incentivize your top managers heavily (most of them are Crorepatis now) and aggressively take market share

Do buy this book to get an international perspective of a great business mind

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